Dystonia is a movement disorder, meaning it affects parts of the brain that control body movement (motor function). It causes involuntary muscle spasms (contractions), sometimes repeatedly, that can twist the body and be painful.
Dystonia symptoms often start in childhood or early adulthood and can range from mild to severe. In about half of cases, dystonia is a symptom of a disease or is caused by exposure to toxins or certain drugs. In most other cases where dystonia is not linked to a specific illness or problem, it is thought to have hereditary causes.
Many cases of dystonia are temporary, such as those brought on by medication. Although there is no cure for dystonia, several treatment options can help control symptoms and allow people to live independently.
Dystonia treatment options include:
People whose symptoms do not respond well to other treatments may be candidates for deep brain stimulation at UPMC.
Dystonia can affect one muscle, a group of muscles (such as arms or legs), or the entire body.
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, which may include:
To determine what form of dystonia you have, four factors will be taken into consideration:
Although dystonia is a chronic condition and the symptoms can be severe, most dystonia does not impact a person’s intelligence, cognition, or life span.
Dystonia treatment options depend on the severity of symptoms and take into consideration any related conditions you have.
Medications and physical therapy, including voice therapy, are often the first treatment approaches for dystonia.
Drugs that help one person may not help another, so your doctor will work with you to determine the formulation best suited to your case.
In addition to oral medication, injection of botulinum neurotoxin into muscles affected by dystonia may also be used.
Other helpful treatments may include:
In order to limit or stop involuntary muscle spasms and lessen pain, doctors can operate:
In this type of surgery, selected nerves or abnormal brain tissue are destroyed and/or removed.
UPMC is a leader in treating movement disorders such as dystonia with deep brain stimulation (DBS), and now offers both standard and MRI-guided DBS, depending on your condition.
Deep brain stimulation delivers electrical stimulation to targeted areas in the brain that control movement, blocking the neuronal signals that cause abnormal movement. DBS gives significant benefit in about 70 percent of people who undergo the procedure.
How can we help you?
Schedule anappointment >
Ask a question >
Request our expertopinion >
1-877-986-9862(within the U.S.)
Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by Healthwise, Incorporated. To learn more, visit www.healthwise.org
For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.
UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.
Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.
For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com